Gochag Askarov Ensemble
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Gochag Askarov Ensemble

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
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SAMELA HARRIS
6 March 2010

GOCHAG Askarov bears laurels of UNESCO classification as ``a masterpiece of the world's verbal and non-material heritage''.

The people of his village in Azerbaijan could have told the world that when he was only six.

``His mother used to send him out to mind the family cows and he would sing and the people would hear his voice floating down from the mountains and they would stop what they were doing to listen because he had such a nice voice,'' explains his manager, musicologist Sanubar Baghirova.

``They would always say `that is Gochag Askarov'.

``And his friends and family were always asking him to sing. Everyone loved to listen to Gochag sing,''

Gochag Askarov is only the second Azerbaijan singer to tour the world and its Womads. He arrives on his first trip to Australia, now a star in his homeland.

He is 31, a father of two with a strong formal musical education behind him from the Azerbaijan National Conservatoire.

``I was only 10 when I first sang on the stage,'' Gochag - who does not speak English - says through his manager.

He soared to success on a TV competition, Mugham Star - Mugham being the name given to the Azerbaijan's 700-year-old music with its Iranian-Arabic-Turkish influences.

Gochag now has sung through the UK and US. He has appeared on BBC radio and has released a CD of Music From Azerbaijan.

``He is a rarity,'' says Dr Baghirova. Gochag sang last night and will perform again on Monday.
- The Advertiser


21 May 2012

On 18 May, the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, located at the epicentre of London’s cultural life on the South Bank, resounded to the meditative and passionate sound of Azerbaijani mugham.

The concert was sponsored by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). Following an introduction by Lucy Duran, presenter of the BBC Radio 3 programme World Routes, Gochag Askarov and his Ensemble of accomplished musicians performed a wide range of evocative traditional compositions, including Dastgah Bayati Shiraz, an extended piece, and Mahur Mugham, with which Gochag previously achieved first prize at the Samarqand Festival in Uzbekistan in 2009. They also played some shorter vocal rhythmical pieces, known as Tasnifs, and an instrumental composition in brio (virtuoso)style, in front of the attentive multinational audience of around 120 people.

Having performed to wide acclaim at the WOMAD Festivals in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, vocalist Gochag Askarov has cut several CDs and appeared in the TEAS-produced award winning film The Mystical Music of Mugham Comes to Montana. He is renowned as one of the foremost living exponents of classical mugham, with a voice of unmatched purityand passion.

Azerbaijani mugham is a highly complex art form that combines classical poetry with musical improvisation. Mugham is performed according to a modal system although, unlike Western modes, the mugham modes are associated both with scales and an orally-transmitted collection of melodies and melodic fragments that performers use during their improvisations. The dramatic unfolding of the composition is typically associated with increasing intensity and rising pitches, and a form of poetic-musical communication develops between performers and initiated listeners.

Three major schools of mugham performance developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, emanating from the regions of Karabakh, Shirvan, and Baku. In particular, the town of Shusha in the Karabakh region was renowned for the quality of its instrumentalists, singers and composers. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognised mugham as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

- TODAY.AZ


A review by Mary Couzens
November 26, 2010

The vocalist in Azerbaijan’s Turan Mugham Ensemble, Gochag Askarov, has one of the greatest vocal ranges I’ve ever heard utilised by a singer live, apart from possibly, Pavarotti, as I’m too young to have heard the legendary great Caruso, though Askarov’s impassioned voice is not only distinctly different from those famous operatic stars, but definitely, in a class by itself, particularly in terms of drama. Animated accompaniment was provided by Malik Mansurov (tar/oud), Elmur Mikayilov (kamancha) and Shukur Aliyev (percussion). You can have a listen here: http://womad.org/artists/gochag-askarov - Extra!Extra


GOCHAG ASKAROV (AZERBAIJAN)

Friday night at Womadelaide ended with the sublime sounds of Gochag Askarov and his ensemble. Askarov is an exponent of mugam, a complex form of traditional Azerbaijani song with instrumental accompaniment. It demands great vocal flexibility, a wide range and an ability to improvise melodic lines with intricate ornamentation.

Askarov never seems to strain as his voice soars and plunges. Unusual vibrato effects and portamento slides contribute to an effect of unearthly beauty.

Supported by a stellar line-up of Azeri musicians led by tar virtuoso Malik Mansurov, Askarov's marathon performance - which lasted until past 1am - was a revelation.
- Adelaidenow - The Advertiser


by Simon Broughton
Published: August 23 August 2013

It was a curious Malian/Azerbaijani sandwich at the Albert Hall last night, with Azeri music providing the substantial filling between two bands from Mali.

At the centre was the fourth showcase of Radio 3’s World Routes Academy, where a young musician from one of Britain’s immigrant communities is tutored by a master from overseas.

In this case, 18-year-old Fidan Hajiyeva, born in Baku, Azerbaijan, but raised in Britain, worked with the great Azeri mugham singer Gochag Askarov.

Master and pupil were on stage together last night. It’s a tall order to ask a novice to perform alongside an acknowledged master in a prestigious venue such as the Albert Hall — particularly in a genre such as mugham, which everyone recognises takes many years to master.

Hajiyeva was passionate and fearless but it was Askarov who really displayed the glories of mugham. It’s a classical style of music, with poetic lyrics sung with a small ensemble of instruments. There’s filigree interweaving of the vocal line with plucked tar, bowed kamancha and soft reedy balaban to create a richly textured music of dappled sunlight through leaves.

Askarov’s voice was sometimes soft but always magnificently controlled. He is a great singer of the world and it’s fitting for the Proms to showcase him, as with Aruna Sairam from India a couple of years ago.

The concert opened with the Trio Da Kali from Mali in West Africa. Mali is one of the most musical countries on the planet, bursting with astonishing artists — and the members of this group come from great musical lineages. The trio includes brilliant balafon (traditional xylophone) player Lassana Diabaté, bass ngoni (desert lute) player Mamadou Kouyaté and singer Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté, the daughter of one of Mali’s best vocalists.

At first it seemed like they needed a more intimate venue but Hawa’s voice, with a touch of sandy grit, drew everyone in — with a song inspired by legendary American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

The finale came from Bassekou Kouyaté — one of Mali’s great artists — and his band Ngoni Ba.

The ngoni looks alarmingly like a cricket bat but it was the talking drum that got the party atmosphere going and really raised the temperature at the end.


- London Evening Standard


Monday 22 February 2010 2:20PM

Azerbaijani singers are remarkable for their supple, powerful voices and Gochag Askarov, with his richly timbered, high voice, is one of the country's premier singers.
Born in 1978, Gochag comes from the Garabaq district, noted for its great singers. Gochag comes to Australia for Womadelaide with the Khary Bulbul Ensemble, headed by Aliaqa Sadiyev, a talented player of the tar (a long-necked lute with 22 moveable frets), with Elshan Mansurov on kamancha (a four-stringed spike fiddle) and Shirzad Fataliyev on balaban and zurna.
- Daily Planet ABC Radio (Australia)


Discography

Solo CDs:

1. “Music from Azerbaijan. Gochag Askarov & Sari Gelin Ensemble”- ARC Music Productions, EUCD 2146, UK, 2008

2. “Qoçaq ?sg?rov. Az?rbaycan Musiqi Dünyasi” [Gochag Askarov. Musical World of Azerbaijan] - Melodiya MMC, Baku, 2009

3. “Music from Azerbaijan. Gochag Askarov & Mugham ensemble TURAN” - Bird Walks Records, BW- 01, Australia, 2010

4. “Gochag Askarov. Mugham”/Traditional music of Azerbaijan. - Felmay Records, CD, fy 8183, Italy, 2011

5. “Gochag Askarov. Sacred World of Azerbaijani Mugham” - Felmay Records, CD, fy 8210, Italy, 2013

CD Tracks:

6. “World Routes: On The Road”, 2 CD, Nascente Records, (NASCE001), BBC - disc 2, track 10, UK, 2011

7. “The WOMEXimizer 12”, CD 12 WOMEX Selections, Piranha Records AG, track 19, 2012

8. “Mugham of Azerbaijan” CD, track 7, Songlines music magazine, July 2013

Documentaries and Radio airplays:

1. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/dailyplanet/gochag-askarov/3121986

2. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/dailyplanet/gochag-askarov/3045692

3. http://www.for3.org/forums/showthread.php?585-World-Routes-10th-Anniversary-
Concert&s=aa8ceaaa0360af249cc6043f6b80423a

4. www.youtube.com/Mugham in Montana (documentary, USA)

5. Welt Beat. Globalwize Playlists.mht , 2011 & Best of Years Globalwize on Radio X (91,8 FM, Greater Frankfurt area), Livestream: http://www.radiox.de/live, Program 13.07. 21 Uhr & 14.07.. 10-12 Uhr. Selector & presenter: Jean Trouillet; Livemix: Captain Crucial Cut

6 .http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/audios/mundofonias/mundofonias-vuelta-mundo-31-07-11/1163988/>Escuchar – Listen

7. www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012x14y, 4 Aug 2011, 23:30 on BBC Radio 3.Gochag Askarov — Mugham Bayati Shiraz / Tasnif “Bir choban qizi”

8. http://womad.org/artists/gochag-askarov/ July 25,2009

9. http://www.extraextra.org/Review_Feature_World_Routes_10th_Anniversary_2010.html

10. BBC, “World Routes In Azerbaijan”, Part I, February 9, 2008, Part II, February 16, 2008; Presenter- Lucy Duran, Producer – James Parkin; Recorded on Location In September 2007

11. http://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/mugham-traditional-music-azerbaijan/id444200503?affId=1434259

12. http://www.radio3.rai.it/dl/radio3/programmi/puntata/ContentItem-6a500715-7f63-4c69-b4bd-5949b1f8f5f7.html

13. [weekly chart] KZSU: 2012-08-26 chart. Data: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 01:01:45 -0700 (PDT). Mittente: KZSU Zookeeper Online. , A: weekly-charts@mailman.stanford.edu

14. [weekly chart] KZSU: 2012-10-21 chart. Data: Mon, 22 Oct 2012 01:01:45 -0700 (PDT). Mittente: KZSU Zookeeper Online. , A: weekly-charts@mailman.stanford.edu, KZSU 90.1FM Chart for the Week ending 21 October 2012, Music Directors: Diego Aguilar-Canabal, Bill Cuevas. PO Box 20510, Stanford, CA 94309, music@kzsu.stanford.edu http://www-
kzsu.stanford.edu World music

15. KGNU Radio Music Reports] 9.10.2012 Charts. Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2012 11:23:45-0600, Mittente: John Schaefer music@kgnu.org, A: musicreports@kgnu.org

16. BBC Radio 3 “World Routes” Academy 2013, TX 27/01/2013

17. “The Sounds of Azerbaijan”, documentary by Vincent Moon. October 2013. https://petitesplanetes.bandcamp.com/album/az-rbaycan-s-sl-ri-the-sounds-of-azerbaijan

Photos

Bio

Gochag Askarov is at the forefront of today`s generation of Azerbaijani mugham singers, a position that can only be achieved through immense dedication to the art." Still in his early 30s, the expressive and brilliant virtuosity of his voice betray a maturity way beyond his years. With a range of nearly three octaves, his voice has a special quality of subtle intensity, moving the listener with its deep melancholy.

“An extraordinary voice," “a fantastic singer," and “crown prince of Azerbaijani classical mugham” – this is the way the Western musical press and media portray Gochag Askarov. His voice is often compared to that of Nusrat Fateh Ali
Khan, the late Pakistani qawwali singer.

Some of this natural talent and deep pathos can be attributed to Gochaq’s birth place in the west of Azerbaijan, the disputed territory of Garabag (Karabakh), a beautiful mountainous area, famous for its musicians and its superb singers. The gift of a beautiful voice has been generously distributed among the members of his family, but Gochaq was the only one who chose the career of a singer. As a small boy he sang everywhere – at home, in the forests and mountains that surrounded their village - and he made his first public appearance on stage at the age of six in his hometown Fuzuli. He even, at one point, ran away from home in order to go to music school!

His happy childhood came to an abrupt end in 1992 with the Armenian occupation of Garabag. Gochaq’s family, along with hundreds of others, had to abandon their homes and livestock to escape from death. A young teenager, Gochaqfought in the war but was badly wounded. For several years the family were refugees, wandering from one town to another until they finally settled in Baku.

Despite the hardships he suffered, he was persistent in following his vocation. In 1998 he sent his papers to the Baku Music College, took the singing test, did it well and was accepted to the class of mugham vocals. From 2004 to 2008 he studied music and traditional singing at the National Conservatoire in Baku. In 2006 while a student he took part in the First National TV Contest for young khanende (mugham singers) and was awarded a diploma.

2007 became the year of his international music debut: he gave his first solo concert at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, University of London. That same year, BBC Radio 3 was the first Western media to broadcast the voice of Gochag Askarov world-wide. He has since been featured many times on “World Routes," BBC Radio 3’s flagship world music program, and in 2009 was invited to perform at the WOMAD festival in the UK on the BBC Radio 3 stage. The festival brochure introduced him thus: “Over the past 27 years of WOMAD, we`ve encountered plenty of truly astonishing singers. Add one more to this list."

And James Parkin, senior producer at BBC Radio 3, commented: “the drama and virtuosity of Gochaq’s voice, combined with his simplicity and modesty as a performer make him, without doubt, one of the finest voices in the world today.”

In 2009 Gochag Askarov won the First Prize of the International Music Festival in Samarqand/Uzbekistan, and a few months later Asian Music Circuit arranged his touring to the UK.

Gochaq’s remarkable performances of mugham deeply impressed the public at the WOMADelaide festival in Australia in 2010. The Adelaide Review wrote: “The near-midnight spot once set aside for such extraordinary performers as the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Subramaniam will, this time, include the haunting vocals of Gochag Askarov, performing Azerbaijani mugham music."

Another local newspaper, The Adverter: “Friday night at WOMADelaide ended with the sublime sounds of Gochag Askarov… Askarov never seems to strain as his voice soars and plunges. Unusual vibrato effects and portamento slides contribute to an effect of unearthly beauty. Supported by a stellar line-up of Azeri musicians, Askarov's marathon performance - which lasted until past 1 am - was a revelation."

Since 2007, during six years of his performances, 34-year old Gochag Askarov has given more than forty solo concerts in Europe and America, as well as in his home country. His voice was recorded on several audio discs released by ARC Music Production, the Nascente Records (UK), Felmay Records (Italy), and by other record companies. He was featured in the documentary “Mugham in Montana” filmed in 2007 in the USA